Interview with current part-time Kellogg student (evening program) with an engineering background, currently working at a tech company
What is your goal for getting the MBA?
In the next five years or so, I plan to advance within my company with an increasing focus on international business. Longer-term, I’m looking to start my own consultancy with a technology-integration and international focus.
So far, my classes at Kellogg have been mostly core courses: accounting, decision sciences, leadership and organization, and management and strategy. We can take electives, but they require pre-requisites—either a waiver for classes taken as undergrads or the core courses themselves.
How well has Kellogg met your expectations in these areas?
Academic/curriculum—So far I’ve taken two quantitative classes and two qualitative courses. For the quant classes I’ve been very satisfied with what I’ve learned. For Decision-Making Under Uncertainty, I had Scott McKeon, who is the best prof I’ve ever had in my life (including my previous Master’s degree). As an engineer, I’m very comfortable applying quant analysis, but he helped me understand how to apply decision-making tools in a much broader range of circumstances in the real world. We used gambling-based examples and everyone really enjoyed it and learned a lot. For the qualitative classes, I’ve been less satisfied. I knew many of the principles they were teaching already. Material on very basic concepts stretched out over multiple lectures. But the focus on data to back up key ideas was strong. One issue is that new profs teach core courses, so sometimes they’re a bit green.
Students—One of the reasons I chose Kellogg was its very friendly atmosphere—before I applied I sat in on classes and really enjoyed what I observed. My classmates are competitive, but very friendly. I made lots of friends from the start. We even founded an International Business club; the inspiration grew out of a conversation we had after a team project. Students run everything here. The professors are very approachable and willing to help out. My study group experience has been good overall—typically, we got our work done and then went out for a drink. It’s a great way to get to know my classmates. Unfortunately, on one of my teams I had a couple people who were close to the program’s end, so they weren’t as committed to the process as the rest of us were. There are lots of engineers here and people with finance backgrounds. There’s a fair amount of cultural diversity—Indians and Asians are very well-represented groups, as at other programs.
Extracurricular/outside of class activities—We helped start the International Business club and that has been great. I’m also in the Asian Business Club and the Entrepreneur Venture Capital clubs. These are clubs for part-time students, though we do joint activities with full-time-student clubs, as well. Overall, part-time students are pretty committed to the business-related clubs, less so for the non-professional clubs (e.g., culture-based), due to other commitments (e.g. work).
What about the Chicago location? How did that affect your experience?
Everyone works in the area, so it’s less of a factor. I live in the suburbs and come in for classes. After 9PM, when our classes end, it’s pretty dead in the campus area, but we can go out in Chicago in general.
What have been the trade-offs associated with Kellogg/b-school in general?
It’s a lot of work—I estimate I’m spending 15 hours a week on the program. So one tradeoff has been that I spend less time with my old friends, given my focus on Kellogg contacts/friends. I’m single, so it hasn’t had a big impact on my family life.
What did you find out the school offers that you couldn’t find out from the website or an information session?
One thing I’ve enjoyed has been Kellogg’s sphere of influence, especially internationally. For example, I went to the Indian Business Conference and got to see how many alumni are doing really great things in India—they were very approachable and very helpful. There were also executives from major companies doing business in India—Google India’s managing director is a Kellogg alumni.
What kind of leadership training or mentoring do you receive at Kellogg?
Part-timers go through mandatory leadership seminars carried out over two days. I haven’t been to mine yet, but my understanding is that there are a lot of group activities including team-building, negotiation exercises, and community service.
How much help has career services been to you? How much of the job search have you had to do on your own?
I’m not looking to change jobs, so I haven’t done much with career services. A couple of my friends transferred to the full-time program (a very difficult transition) and are using the career services there. If you’re getting tuition reimbursement, you have to get authorization to use career services.
Best thing about Kellogg?
The pool of professors is really impressive. But beyond their credentials, they are extremely approachable. As are the alumni, no matter how “important” they are in their companies. I went to a private university in California for my Master’s degree, and didn’t experience nearly this level of accessibility for the faculty and alumni.
The biggest challenge about Kellogg?
On the administration side, there’s room for improvement. There can be more automation of certain things—for example, the Manager’s Ball Auction should have been more organized. Also, the part-time program’s library could have a stronger collection. But these are minor issues.
Words of advice for current applicants?
Think about how your personality fits with the program. I have a friend who thinks he may have made a mistake by choosing Kellogg over University of Chicago (Booth). It’s because he’s very competitive and focused on finance, and hasn’t really enjoyed all the teamwork. He wants to learn more on his own, not so much in the context of a group. Kellogg’s focus on people and teamwork is great, but it may not be for everyone.
By Dr. Sachin Waikar, former McKinsey consultant, published author, and advisor to applicants to business and grad schools Dr. Waikar can help you tell your story through your MBA application.